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EREWHILE of musick, and ethereal mirth,
In wintry solstice, like the shorten'd light,
Soon swallow'd up in dark and long out-living night.
For now to sorrow must I tune my song,
Which on our dearest Lord did seize ere long,
And set my harp to notes of saddest woe,
Dangers, and snares, and wrongs, and worse than so,
Most perfect Hero, tried in heaviest plight
Of labours huge and hard, too hard for human wight!
He, sovran Priest, stooping his regal head,
That dropt with odorous oil down his fair eyes,
His starry front low-rooft beneath the skies:
O, what a mask was there, what a disguise!
Yet more; the stroke of death he must abide;
Then lies him meekly down fast by his brethren's side.
These latest scenes confine my roving verse;
To this horizon is my Phoebus bound:
His godlike acts, and his temptations fierce,
*I cannot agree with Sir Egerton Brydges that this Ode or Elegy is "unaccountably inferior" to the preceding Hymn. True, this is not so highly finished as the other, but there are in it exquisite touches of beauty. A beloved friend and accomplished scholar of Oxford (J. W.) writes me-"That third stanza has often suffused my eyes and quickened my heart's pulsation: what a saddening, melancholy tenderness-a climax of pathos and of dear human sympathy in the last two lines!"
1. Erewhile, &c. Hence we may conjecture that this Ode was probably composed soon after that on the "Nativity." And this, perhaps, was a college exercise at Easter, as the last was at Christmas.T. WARTON.
13. Most perfect Hero. Sco Heb. ii. 10. 26. Cremona's trump. Vida's "Chris tisd," which our author seems to think the finest Latin poem on a religious subject, is here called Cremona's trump, because Vida was born at Cremona.
Me softer airs befit, and softer strings
Of lute, or viol still, more apt for mournful things.
Befriend me, Night, best patroness of grief;
That heaven and earth are colour'd with my woe;
The leaves should all be black whereon I write ;
My sorrows are too dark for day to know:
And letters, where my tears have wash'd a wannish white.
See, see the chariot, and those rushing wheels,
In pensive trance, and anguish, and ecstatick fit.
Mine eye hath found that sad sepulchral rock
For sure so well instructed are my tears,
Or should I thence, hurried on viewless wing,
Might think the infection of my sorrows loud
This subject the author finding to be above the years he had when he wrote it, and nothing satisfied with what was begun, left it unfinished.
28. Of lute, or viol: That is, gentle; not noisy or loud like the trumpet.
34. The leaves, &c. Conceits were not confined to words only. Mr. Stevens has a volume of Elegies, in which the paper is black and the letters white: that is, in all the title-pages. Every intermediate leaf is also black. What a sudden change, from this childish idea to the noble apostrophe, the sublime rapture and imagiuation of the next stanza.-T. WARTON.
43. That sad sepulchral rock: That is, the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem.
51. Take up a weeping. Jer, ix. 10. 52. The gentle neighbourhood. A sweetly beautiful couplet, which, with the two preceding lines, opened the stanza so well, that I particularly grieve to find it terminate feebly in a most miserably disgusting concetto.-DUNSTER.
UPON THE CIRCUMCISION.*
YE flaming Powers, and winged Warriours bright,
Seas wept from our deep sorrow:
He, who with all Heaven's heraldry whilere
Enter'd the world, now bleeds to give us ease:
Sore doth begin
His infancy to seize!
O more exceeding love, or law more just?
For we, by rightful doom remediless,
Were lost in death, till he that dwelt above
High throned in secret bliss, for us frail dust
And that great covenant which we still transgress
And the full wrath beside
Of vengeful justice bore for our excess;
And seals obedience first, with wounding smart,
This day; but, O! ere long,
Huge pangs and strong
Will pierce more near his heart.
ON THE DEATH OF A FAIR INFANT, DYING OF A COUGH.†
O FAIREST flower, no sooner blown but blasted.
*The "Circumcision" is better than the "Passion," and has two or three Miltonic lines.-BRYDGES.
The "Elegy on the Death of a Fair Infant" is praised by Warton, and we'l characterized in his last note upon it; but it has more of research and laloured fancy than of feeling, and is not a general favourite.-BRYDGES. It was written at the age of seventeen.
20. Emptied his glory. An expression | r putation,”-but, as it is in the original, taken from Phil. ii. 7, but not as in our (ƐAUTOV EKEVWOE,) "He emptied himself." translation,-"He made himself of no-NEWTON.
Summer's chief honour, if thou hadst out-lasted
That did thy cheek envermeil, thought to kiss,
For since grim Aquilo, his charioteer,
By boisterous rape the Athenian damsel got,
Of long uncoupled bed and childless eld,
So, mounting up in icy-pearled car,
Yet art thou not inglorious in thy fate;
Young Hyacinth, the pride of Spartan land;
Alack, that so to change thee Winter had no power!
Yet can I not persuade me thou art dead,
Or that thy corse corrupts in earth's dark womb,
Hid from the world in a low-delved tomb.
O, no! for something in thy face did shine
8. Aquilo, or Boreas, the North wind. enamoured of Orithyia, the daughter of Erechtheus, King of Athens.
12. Infamous, the common accent in old English poetry.
23. For so Apollo, &c. From these lines one would suspect, although it does not immediately follow, that a boy was the subject of the Ode; but in the last stanza the poet says expressly,
Then thou, the mether of so sweet a child,
Yet, in the eighth stanza, the person la mented is alternately supposed to have been sent down to earth in the shape of two divinities, one of whom is styled a "just maid," and the other a "sweet smiling youth." But the child was cer tainly a niece, a daughter of Milton's sister Philips.
40. Were, instead of are, for rhyme.47. Earth's sons, the giants.-50. Maid, Justice.-54. Youth, Mercy.
67. To turn swift-rushing, &c. Among
Resolve me then, O soul most surely blest,
O, say me true, if thou wert mortal wight,
Wert thou some star, which from the ruin'd roof
Of sheeny Heaven, and thou, some goddess fled,
Or wert thou that just Maid, who once before
Or that crown'd matron sage, white-robed Truth?
Let down in cloudy throne to do the world some good?
Or wert thou of the golden-winged host,
To earth from thy prefixed seat didst post,
And after short abode fly back with speed,
As if to show what creatures heaven doth breed ;
To scorn the sordid world, and unto heaven aspire?
But, O! why didst thou not stay here below
the blessings which the Heaven-loved innocence of this child might have imparted, by remaining upon earth, the application to present circumstances, the supposition that she might have averted the pesti lence now raging in the kingdom, is happily and beautifully conceived. On the whole, from a boy of seventeen, this Ode is an extraordinary effort of fancy, ex
pression, and versification; even in the conceits, which are many, we perceive strong and peculiar marks of genius. I think Milton has here given a very remarkable specimen of his ability to suc ceed in the Spenserian stanza. He moves with great ease and address amidst the embarrassment of a frequent return of rhyme.-T. WARTON.